Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Pomarine Skua
(Pom, Pomarine Jaeger)
Photography ©Terry Fountain
Stinky Bay - Benbecula - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
19th May, 2007
"I cannot work out from the photo which sort of skua you sent me - pomarine or Arctic. My ID book lists several clues, but I can not make them out in the picture...can you tell me which it was please?"
"The Skuas are Poms, notice the tail feathers are very visible in the vertical plane. This would not be so for an Arctic Skua. Size etc is difficult as there are only two of the same species in the shot so nothing to compare"
"Poms are also bulkier, more broad-winged and less falcon-like than the Arctic Skua..."
- Pomarine Skua (From Latin pomarin : covered nose - the cere on the bill)
- Stercorarius pomarinus
- Gaelic: Fàsgadair donn
- WI: Fairly common spring passage visitor (small numbers) & usually scarce in autumn (very small numbers)
See at seawatching places late April - May & Aug - Nov
- Breeds: Arctic tundra & Islands: Greenland, North Russia, North of America, North Europe, North Asia
- Winters: Seacoasts: Tropical oceans, West African coast
- Herring gull size seabird, long & twisted spoon-shaped tail streamers, wing has small white double flashes
3 adult colour phases. Light-phase: Brown back, mainly white below. Head & neck yellowish-white, black cap. Dark-phase: Dark brown. Intermeadiate-phase: Dark with paler underparts, head and neck.
- Diet: Breeding grounds: Lemmings (small rodents). Elsewise eggs, other birds (will kill a Common Gull), winter fish. Pirate (will steal from a Gannet!), scavenges
- Similar birds: Arctic skua, Long-tailed Skua, Great Skua
Pomarine Skua winter in tropical oceans and on the West African coast. In March they begin their journey to their Arctic tundra breeding grounds (They do not breed in the UK).
The Pomarine Skuas reach the North Atlantic in April, and the last week of April and first three weeks of May is their time of peak passage in Britain and Ireland. The sea-watching point Aird an Runair at Balranald in North Uist is one of the best places in the UK to see this spring passage from.
Smaller numbers of the birds are seen in August - November as they are en route to spend winter in the South.
The Pomarine Skua is probably a hybrid of a Great Skua and another Skua.
Pomarine Skua in the Western Isles
Fairly common spring passage visitor (small numbers) & usually scarce in autumn (very small numbers)
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)
On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the bird is during a month - the more likely you are to see it.
(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)
Other local bird photographs
Sources of information for the bird sightings section